This extraordinary pair of vases were designed for the 1878 Paris International Exhibition and were the highlight of the Royal Worcester exhibit of that year. The vases use the novel idea of making pottery tell its own story. They feature sunken scenes modelled in deep relief by the talented James Hadley showing the potter at work on ceramic processes of throwing, modelling, decorating, and firing, imagined in a 16th century Italian Renaissance workshop. On the sides of the vases are the heads of Renaissance artists Luca Della Robbia, Maestro Giorgio, Michelangelo, and Raphael.
R. W. Binns and Hadley took inspiration from the 1877 poem ‘Keramos the Potter’ by Longfellow, which emphasises the labour, passion and frustrations of the potter driven by his vision. The factory published a booklet ‘The Poetry of Pottery’ to accompany the vases illustrated with pictures of the four sides. The original vases, gilded in coloured metals by Josiah Davis, were sold on the spot. This second pair of vases were made to display Worcester’s skills and successes at home and were decorated in Raphaelesque colours after Italian maiolica pottery of the 15th and 16th century.
In Paris in 1878 Worcester was awarded the gold medal, and their Art Director, R.W. Binns, received the Cross of the Legion of Honour.
Modeller: James Hadley
Artist: Thomas Callowhill
Material: Glazed Parian
Factory: Royal Worcester
From the Archive
Showstopper sponsor: The Arts Society, Worcester
As an arts organisation we offer opportunities to discover and learn about the arts of yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are keen to support and promote local artists and cultural organizations and are delighted to have this opportunity to support the Museum of Royal Worcester. Our choice of these extraordinary vases reflects the many creative processes that they incorporate.